overly helpful people, true crime, YouTube

Creeps like her? My unpopular opinion regarding Debra Hunter.

Yesterday, I read the trending story about Debra Hunter, the mom in Jacksonville, Florida who was caught on video last summer, berating a clerk at a Pier 1 home goods store. Heather Sprague, the woman who decided to video Hunter, claims she had listened to her verbally abusing the clerk about an item she had wanted to return, but apparently hadn’t brought with her.

When Hunter noticed Sprague filming, she gave her a “double bird”– that is, both middle fingers in their locked and upright positions, then, obviously very angry, she said, “I think I’ll get real close to you and cough on you, then, how’s that?” Sprague, who was one of the few people wearing a face mask in public at the time, since this incident occurred in June 2020, before face masks were required, says she felt spittle on her face as Hunter then stormed out of the store.

Sprague is a mother of ten and has been treated for a brain tumor at the Mayo Clinic. Because of her delicate health condition, and that of her children, some of whom have special healthcare needs, Sprague claims she had to search frantically for a COVID-19 test. They were not widely available at the time, so she spent some time feeling very anxious. It cost her $150 to be tested. The results were, fortunately, negative.

Ms. Hunter has had her day in court, and Judge James A. Ruth sentenced her to 30 days in jail. Hunter also got six months probation, a $500 fine, must have a mental health evaluation and attend anger management counseling, and she must repay Sprague for the COVID-19 test.

After reading the many outraged comments people had about this case, I decided to watch the entire proceedings on YouTube. It was about a three hour video. One of the reasons it took so long is because there were technical difficulties, as the proceedings went on via Zoom.

Is she really that much of a creep? People should watch Ms. Hunter’s testimony. She doesn’t sound like a narcissistic creep to me.

Once again, I find myself disagreeing with the masses about this case. I read gleeful comment after delighted comment that Debra Hunter is going to go to jail for a month. I read many people condemning her character, based on headlines. I read that Debra Hunter and her family had received many death threats related to this incident, and her children were forbidden from playing with their now former friends. Ms. Hunter and her family are now pariahs, and now she will be going to jail for up to 30 days.

I know a lot of people think this sentence is entirely appropriate, and Debra Hunter and her family deserve being thrown to the Internet lions. It’s become very trendy for people to take it upon themselves to film total strangers and upload the videos to social media. Oftentimes, the videos– just a minute or two of someone’s entire life– lead to fifteen minutes of fame for the uploader and years of public ridicule and condemnation for the person being filmed AND their families. Debra Hunter has children too, and they are suffering because Heather Sprague decided to insert herself in a situation that, frankly, was not her affair.

I watched the incident from the video that Heather Sprague uploaded. While I don’t condone Debra Hunter’s actions at all, and I do think most of the punishment she received is appropriate, I don’t think she should be going to jail. It was a very short interaction she had with Sprague and, frankly, one that really didn’t need to happen. Heather Sprague, who claims to be medically fragile and has many children who are also medically fragile, CHOSE to meddle in a perfect stranger’s personal business. It seems to me that if Ms. Hunter was really that out of control, the store manager or perhaps even law enforcement should have been called– especially if Ms. Sprague is a cancer patient with small children at home. I mean, seriously… it’s Florida. She’s lucky no one pulled out a gun!

Many people were saying that Ms. Hunter’s decision to cough on Ms. Sprague was especially heartless, since Ms. Sprague has had cancer. But– if these two women didn’t even know each other, how could Ms. Hunter possibly know anything about Ms. Sprague’s medical history or condition? Yes, it was absolutely wrong for Hunter to lose her temper and cough on another person, particularly during a pandemic. But in June of last year, COVID-19 hadn’t yet wreaked the havoc that it since has worldwide. It was still very much a “novel” virus, and people in the United States were blissfully unaware of what was about to come. At that point, Ms. Hunter probably didn’t realize how dangerous coughing on someone is. The vast majority of us alive today have never before lived through a pandemic the likes of COVID-19. It was new territory in June 2020, and even as angry as Hunter was on that June day last year, I doubt she would have taken that action months later, when it became clearer how dangerous COVID-19 is.

As it turned out, Hunter didn’t have COVID-19 anyway, so while coughing on Sprague was rude, disgusting, and potentially dangerous, it wasn’t a murderous action. But people are still calling what she did “attempted murder” or “attempted manslaughter”. To that, I say “bullshit”. Yes, it was absolutely wrong for her to cough on Ms. Sprague, but I feel quite certain that Ms. Hunter’s intention was not to kill anyone. She was just really angry and having a very bad day, as we all do from time to time. And if Sprague hadn’t been filming her with the apparent intention of shaming, ridiculing, and destroying her life on social media, she probably would not have been on the receiving end of Ms. Hunter’s cough.

I don’t think Debra Hunter’s actions in June 2020 were appropriate. She was extremely angry that day, and according to Ms. Sprague, Hunter had been going off in the store for about fifteen minutes. Friends and colleagues who testified on her behalf in the above video claim that this behavior was out of character for Debra Hunter. Her husband testified that the two of them had been trying to build a house and had run into significant problems with the contractors who were building it. Then, their rental house caught on fire and they lost a lot of their personal possessions. If what Ms. Hunter’s husband says is true, I can understand why Ms. Hunter was stressed. No, she certainly shouldn’t have been taking out her stress on the Pier 1 clerk, nor should she have lost her temper with Heather Sprague’s busybody proclivities— but I can see that she was under a lot of stress. And, not knowing the story behind why she was trying to return the item to Pier 1, I don’t have a clear idea of why she was projecting her rage on the sales associate, attracting Ms. Sprague’s attention.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you probably know that I really don’t like this trend of people videoing strangers and making them go viral. I think such an action, while probably very satisfying for the person filming/judging/meddling, as well as the people who watch the videos, can have serious second and third order negative effects that don’t fit the “crime”. Everybody has bad days, and not a single one of us can be defined by the worst thing we’ve ever said or done. Is it really appropriate to destroy someone’s reputation and livelihood, as well as that of her family’s (particularly the children’s) just so someone can get fifteen minutes of fame?

I would have been much more impressed with Heather Sprague if she’d intervened by being kind. Perhaps if she had interjected by asking Debra Hunter if she was okay… or tried to help her calm down a bit. She mentioned Hunter’s child being there, doing the “potty dance”. Maybe Sprague could have redirected Hunter’s attention to the child, rather than whipping out her cellphone. If she really felt the need to meddle in this situation, she could have done so with a spirit of wanting to be helpful, rather than being judgmental. Now, thanks to Heather Sprague’s brand of “help”, Hunter’s children are being ostracized and may suffer psychological effects from this incident. Hunter will be going to jail, where she might be exposed to COVID-19 and, frankly, it’s doubtful that punishment in jail will rehabilitate her in any way.

I know a lot of people, particularly in the United States, think jail is the end all, be all of punishments. For some reason, a lot of us LOVE to see people rot behind bars, for the most trivial of infractions. Many Americans seem to enjoy it when someone gets the book thrown at them, and a lot of us are slow to forgive, unless the situation involves a pretty celebrity of some sort. But, I wonder how many rank and file Americans would like it if some stranger videoed them in the act of having a bad day, and took it upon themselves to put that moment or two on social media? Would they say to themselves, “I deserve the death threats and the nasty phone calls, letters, and text messages from thousands of people around the world.”? Would they say, “I was a jackass, and my kids totally deserve to be ostracized and harassed by their peers because of what I did.”? Would they be completely fine with losing their job, as well as their spouses losing their job, based on something that occurred outside of work hours? My guess is that the vast majority of people would not. And I haven’t even mentioned the hate mail and vitriol people who have the misfortune of sharing the name “Hunter” have gotten in the wake of this fiasco. Several innocent people have had to make statements that they weren’t involved in this incident.

I will agree that Ms. Hunter didn’t seem overly concerned about Heather Sprague’s welfare. But, I would submit that Heather Sprague wasn’t too concerned about Debra Hunter’s welfare, either, when she took it upon herself to make her Internet infamous. I’m truly sorry that Heather Sprague was so terrified that she might get COVID-19 from being coughed on… but this was a situation that she could have avoided by simply minding her own business or, barring that, asking someone in authority to get involved. And if I were someone who suffered from a brain tumor and had medically fragile children to care for, that is what I think I would have done. Or, I would have alerted someone who could have intervened without as much personal risk. I’ve heard many people say that anyone who is medically fragile in the age of COVID-19 ought to “stay home” and avoid the risk of catching the virus. Seems like that advice could apply to Heather Sprague, too.

Perhaps it’s my time in Germany that has made me find this practice of making people Internet infamous so distasteful. Here, people have the right to be forgotten. Even people who are accused and convicted of crimes have the right to anonymity. Media outlets don’t always print people’s full names, nor do they show their faces, if they have been accused or convicted of a crime. Now, I don’t mean to imply that this is necessarily how it should be everywhere, but I do think there is something to be said for letting people live down their past misdeeds and get on with their lives. I don’t think the trend of making people go viral is fair, nor is it practical. Because, eventually, people who screw up, need to be able to go on with life. They need to be able to find employment so they can support themselves. They should be able to redeem themselves, so the rest of their lives isn’t completely fucked up forever.

Uninvolved people who take it upon themselves to film strangers behaving badly are basically acting as judge, jury, and executioner when they upload that stuff to social media. I think, if a person films something that is criminal, it’s more appropriate to give that footage to authorities, rather than taking it upon themselves to put the footage on YouTube or Facebook. Frankly, I won’t be surprised if people start suing these meddlesome folks… or much worse, someone gets shot for pulling out a cellphone.

One more point I would like to add. Judge Ruth reasoned that he sentenced Debra Hunter to jail because he hadn’t heard her express remorse to Heather Sprague. He seemed to imply that she wasn’t sorry for what happened. Personally, I disagree with his assessment. I listened to Debra Hunter’s testimony. At about the 1:30:00 mark in the video, Hunter’s lawyer invites his client to speak on her own behalf. She tells the judge that she’s already written a letter and won’t put him through listening to her points again. The judge interjects and tells her it’s “her day” in court. She speaks about how her three children have suffered because of what “she did”. She sounded genuinely sorry to me, and even said she could empathize with the parents who stopped letting their kids play with Hunter’s children. The judge even told Ms. Hunter to slow down and relax, because she was clearly very upset. At 1:40:00, she legitimately starts to sob. And yet, so many people, reacting to headlines, are calling her a narcissistic monster who should lose her kids and rot in prison. WTF?

I have had lots of dealings with real narcissists… and they don’t behave like Debra Hunter did in her hearing. I would encourage those who think she’s a monster to actually listen to her testimony. At 1:48:00, Debra Hunter actually says she deserves what she’s getting… in contrast to what the judge said, I did hear her mention Ms. Sprague and how this affected her, again at about 1:48:00. She mentions that there has been a “lot of fallout” for Ms. Sprague and her family. At 1:50:00, she apologizes to Sprague and mentions the letter of apology that she sent to her soon after the incident.

The judge says that due to the length of Ms. Hunter’s tirade and the fact that there was saliva that came from the cough, she deserves jail. Well, as we’ve learned since last year, saliva and spittle is a thing when we talk, breathe, sneeze, and cough. Even if Ms. Hunter hadn’t coughed, there would have been saliva droplets. That is the nature of things pertaining to the oral cavity, and why we’ve all been forced to wear masks for the past year. I’m not saying the cough was appropriate. It wasn’t. I’m saying that there would have been saliva regardless, and this occurred at a time when we didn’t know as many of the facts about COVID-19. Again– if this incident had occurred this year, I doubt Ms. Hunter would have done what she did, and she might have been wearing a face mask, anyway.

I know my opinion is unpopular. I expect some people will feel the need to correct my opinion in the form of strongly worded comments. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you probably already know how I feel about people who feel the need to directly “correct” people’s opinions. I just don’t think, in this case, the punishment is appropriate. Yes, Ms. Hunter should have been in much better control of her emotions. I do think she needs some help from a mental health professional. I do think it’s appropriate that she pay a fine and reimburse Heather Sprague for what she spent on the COVID-19 test. I think community service and probation would also be appropriate. But we have so many people in jail, and the fact that the Hunter family has endured almost a year of “venom” (at 2:50:00) from the court of public opinion is already a heavy punishment.

And that venom hasn’t just affected Debra Hunter. It’s affected her business, her family, her children, and friends, as well as perfect strangers with the last name Hunter who have gotten hate mail and death threats, or had their businesses negatively affected by Sprague’s decision to film. That’s a whole lot of punishment delivered to uninvolved people for something that, prior to Facebook, would never have been international news, and probably would not have affected so many people besides those directly involved in the incident.

My guess is that most of the people– completely uninvolved strangers— who are calling for Hunter’s head on a platter would NOT like it if they got the same treatment for similar behavior. Anyone who thinks this can’t happen to them is fooling themselves. I’m sitting here reading this and listening to the actual court case in GERMANY, for Christ’s sakes. Think about that.

I wish Debra Hunter well and hope she and her family can move past this incident without too much trouble.

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lessons learned, silliness, social media

People who deserve a visit from menstrual Krampus…

Special thanks to Wikipedia user Matthias Kabel, who has generously allowed his photo of Krampus in Salzburg, Austria 2008 to be used freely.

Yesterday, I read a very interesting op-ed on The New York Times entitled “Yes, People Are Traveling for the Holidays. Stop Shaming Them.” This piece, written by a pediatrician named Aaron E. Carroll, is about how many people, frustrated and angry about the spread of COVID-19 and the tremendous losses of life, have taken it upon themselves to shame and berate people who are making choices that they deem “wrong”. I’ve been writing about this phenomenon a lot myself. Frankly, it concerns me that so many people feel the need to police others. Below is a quote from Dr. Carroll’s opinion piece:

“The focus on blame is unhelpful, because what really matters is that people do as much as they reasonably can to prevent the spread of the disease, not that everyone adhere to the same set of rigid standards. I choose not to go inside friends’ homes, but I do eat outdoors at restaurants; other people might do the opposite. What’s important is that we all try to minimize risk.”

I decided to share the op-ed. A discussion ensued. I was grateful to see that it was a basically respectful discussion, although the person who had it with me seems to think I don’t have a clue about America and Americans. Believe me, I do know what Americans are like; I still am one myself, even though I have been away for a few years. It might be fair to say that I’m no longer used to how vocal, opinionated, demanding, and obnoxious Americans, as a whole, can be. I do notice them, for instance, when we’re in public places in Europe. Why? Because they’re so loud!

But when it comes to the coronavirus, I think both sides of the response to it have been insufferable and uncooperative, and that has led to a lot of discord and uncivilized behavior. I liked that the pediatrician who wrote the op-ed for The New York Times expressed himself in an even-handed, compassionate, and, I think, basically sensible way. He’s right about a lot of things, whether or not the population at large wants to admit it. Some people are simply bound and determined to do what they’re going to do, and no amount of public outrage is going to stop it.

Yelling at people, shaming them, calling them names, and harassing them only entrenches them in their beliefs and leads to more defiance. Whether or not you agree with their opinions, they still have the right to express them, and as long as there’s no law against it, they still have the right to travel and make other personal decisions. Moreover, in America, it truly is potentially dangerous to confront people over this issue. Many people are armed. I say, leave the enforcement up to the police and, for God’s sake, if you are concerned about catching COVID-19, stay the fuck out of people’s personal space.

A German friend agreed with me that shaming and blaming people who break the rules isn’t going to stop the behavior. But, she thinks heavy fines and police enforcement might. I tend to agree that fines, especially if they are vigorously pursued, might get people to behave. On the other hand, plenty of people ignore court orders. For instance, our ex landlady still owes us the money awarded in our lawsuit against her. I mentioned that, and my German friend replied, “Knecht Ruprecht or better Krampus should pay her a visit tomorrow. 😉

That gave me a laugh.

Many Americans may not know who Krampus is, unless they happen to have spent time in the European countries who have that tradition. I get a kick out of the moniker, “Krampus”, though. It sounds like a cranky name and it reminds me of menstrual cramps… something I haven’t experienced personally since October. Those who don’t know who Krampus is, however, may like an explanation.

A public domain illustration of Krampus and St. Nicholas visiting a child.

Krampus is described as a being who is half demon, half goat. He punishes unruly and ill-behaved children during the Christmas season. He’s one of the companions of St. Nicholas, and as today is the day traditionally celebrated as The Feast of Saint Nicholas, Krampus would have made his appearance last night, handing out lumps of coal to the naughty and visiting homes and businesses, sometimes with St. Nicholas and sometimes alone.

When my friend mentioned Krampus visiting our ex landlady, I couldn’t help but laugh. I can just imagine her shocked reaction as he gives her a lump of dirty coal, especially since I now know she is apparently quite the clean freak. She seems to think she can do no wrong, can make baseless accusations and engage in character assassinations, and that everything bad that happens is entirely someone else’s responsibility.

In that sense, she’s not unlike Donald Trump, who is sitting in the White House, checked out of his job and bitching about being “cheated” out of a second term. It’s utter bullshit, of course. Even the Attorney General admits that there’s been no evidence of election fraud, but Trump and his followers are still insisting there’s no way 7 million extra votes for Biden could possibly be legit. In Trump’s tiny mind, he can do no wrong, while those of us who are sane can see that he clearly can fuck up and, in fact, does so on the daily.

Wouldn’t it be funny if visits from Krampus were a real thing? I can think of a few people who deserve some coal for Christmas, although even coal has its uses, right? You can always throw it in the fireplace.

Anyway, regarding the op-ed from The New York Times… I remain firm in my opinion that yelling at people for not doing what you think they should be doing is counterproductive and potentially very dangerous. I doubt many of the people who commented negatively on Dr. Carroll’s opinion actually took the time to read and really consider it. Yes, we know there’s a pandemic. We know it’s a serious thing, and some people are dying or becoming disabled because of it. We don’t know how long those who are “long haulers” will be suffering from their symptoms. It would be nice if everyone decided to cooperate. But, like the old saying goes, you get more flies with honey than vinegar. And some people are not going to be convinced until they are personally affected.

Also… there is a difference between momentary compliance due to public shaming and an actual attitudinal and behavioral change. Many people will do something for a moment to get out of an awkward or embarrassing situation. That doesn’t mean they will keep doing what you think is the right thing to do. Because to them, what is more important to them is what they think. And, I think if you’re honest, you’ll admit that you’re exactly the same way. Almost no one likes being told what to do, what to believe, or how to think.

I think the situation we’re in right now is extraordinary, at least for those of us who are currently living in it. The vast majority of us have never experienced this kind of public health threat before. But, the fact is, this is not the first pandemic and humans have survived far worse than this. Eventually, this situation will be mitigated, although another may be soon on the horizon. I’m sure that back when the plagues were sweeping across Europe, people thought it was the end of the world. It wasn’t, of course, although many people did die. But it’s going to take respect and cooperation for us to get past this mess. As Dr. Carroll points out,

I understand that Covid-19 shaming is rooted in frustration. We’re angry about our inability to get a handle on the pandemic. But in our quest to scold and lay blame, even when we’re publicly calling out truly bad actors, we’re just making ourselves feel superior, which only makes it harder to achieve the solidarity needed for shared sacrifice.

We can all do better; we’re all in this together. This is just a virus, one that’s too easily transmitted to stigmatize its effects. The only shame we should associate with Covid-19 is that our country has done so little to fight it.

So… be a good citizen and do what you can to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and naughty behavior. And don’t be an asshole to other people, regardless of which side of the COVID-19 debate you’re on. Don’t tempt a visit from Krampus. And hopefully, menstrual Krampus, the evil twin, won’t be paying ME any visits anytime soon.

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holidays

Hitting the road…

We’re out of here. I’m ready to go, but there’s always a little bit of angst that comes with taking a trip. I’m always afraid I’ll forget something. Then I tell myself that we’re not going to the bush country in Africa. We can always go to the store if we need to, and we’ll be back in about ten days, anyway.

On another note… last night, a friend of mine who has been a key figure on the mask preaching brigade, shared a post that a “life coach” friend of hers posted. This lady just lost her grandma, not to COVID-19, but to some other malady. However, because of COVID-19, Grandma died alone, and my friend’s friend, the life coach, is unable to go back to the United States to attend Grandma’s funeral… at least not without a significant pain in the ass trying to get back to Germany.

So life coach lady ranted about how America needs to “get it together”, so this stuff won’t happen anymore. Unfortunately, even if everyone in America was suddenly perfectly compliant about COVID-19 risk mitigation, it will still take some time for things to get back to “normal”. In fact, they may never get back to normal.

Anyway, this post is less about that, than what my friend wrote as she shared her friend’s post, then an article about COVID-19 that was in the Atlantic magazine. She basically resorted to insulting her “friends” on Facebook, telling them to “stop whining”, and directing them to wear masks and stay home.

I was about to fall asleep, so I didn’t respond to the post. Instead, I hid it, just like I hide most of the other posts of that type. People are very upset and rightfully so. What she sees as “whining”, they probably see as legitimate complaining. I doubt her friends appreciate being told they’re whining, especially by someone who has self-appointed herself a COVID-19 mask enforcer.

It occurred to me that if people want others to be convinced to change their ways, they’re probably not going to respond to someone who insults them. I get that people are frustrated. Everyone is. But calling people whiners and trying to tell them what to do is not helpful. It mostly leads to rebellion and withdrawal. Or, at the very least, people hiding your posts because you’re one of many people saying the same goddamned thing.

And… speaking of weirdness…

I talked to my mom last night. She was sounding good. But then she told me that my sister– a woman with a Ph.D. from an excellent school in public health– is embracing Donald Trump’s politics. I’m a bit shocked about it. I guess living in the south has rubbed off on her a lot. Either that, or my brother-in-law has finally brainwashed her into someone I don’t recognize anymore. Anyway, my response was a big WTF. She is the last person I would expect to be a Trump fan.

My mom also said that she read Mary Trump’s book and is completely shocked and disgusted by the Trump family. It basically confirmed what she already knew about them. I love that my mom and I have become friends now. We are a lot alike in many ways.

Well, that about does it for today. I have to finish packing so we can get going. Hopefully, we’ll come home healthy, happy, and brimming with new stories, pictures, and inspirations. I’m going to take the week off of guitar playing. Give my fingers a chance to soften.

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musings

“Add Title”…

I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to write about yesterday. I’m tired of the usual topics, even if they’re always on my mind. There are some things I would like to write, but I can no longer be free about some subjects because certain people feel compelled to meddle in my personal business. I figure most people are tired of the usual headlines. I know I’m tired of them.

I miss the days when I would spontaneously come up with topics that popped into my head. But right now, things are so weird that it’s hard to come up with fun stuff… and even if I did, a lot of readers don’t seem to appreciate them. Well, maybe with the exception of Alexis, who is probably too busy to read daily anymore.

On days like yesterday, it’s good to have a book review from the original blog. Over the years, I’ve reviewed some very interesting titles. Unfortunately, a lot of my reviews are lost in space. When my first iMac and its external hard drive both died, I lost access to some of my best stuff. As I get older, it gets harder to breeze through books the way I used to. And I also find that I no longer have the inclination.

I did post a well-received comment on Dan Rather’s News & Guts Facebook page last night. There was an article about Trump supporters wanting Kanye West on the ballot, no doubt so he can siphon off votes that would go to Joe Biden. I don’t understand the insane devotion some people have to Donald Trump staying in the White House. It makes no sense to me… although I can understand that there is a group of people who are tired of being lectured by the politically correct among us. I can even admit to feeling that way myself a lot of the time. But I am a lot less irritated by political correctness than I am outright insanity, stupidity, and incompetence. Trump exhibits all three of those “qualities”.

Last night, I posted that I think that there should be a requirement for presidential candidates to have had some experience in an elected position before they are allowed to run. Being the President of the United States is not an entry level position. We have seen all too well what happens when someone incompetent is put in charge. I really think we need to put into place a law that excludes wealthy, narcissistic, mentally ill celebrities like Donald Trump and Kanye West from fucking with our elections. The office of POTUS is much too important to put someone who is not serious about leading and doesn’t care about the citizenry to do the work.

Frankly, I also think there should be an independent psych evaluation of potential presidential candidates. All of the successful candidates have some narcissistic qualities, but we should never have another malignant narcissist in office again. It’s too dangerous.

I got many, many likes on that comment, and lots of positive comments. One or two people disagreed. One guy shrugged and said that my idea would require a “Constitutional Amendment”. To that notion, I responded “So?” The Constitution can be amended. It’s not engraved in stone. As times change, so do laws. I’d like to see more candidates who have done real service, too… Military or Peace Corps or Americorps… any kind of service that shows they can humble themselves to work among regular people and live in austere conditions. I have had my fill of men who shit on golden toilets as they eat Big Macs and fries representing us in the White House.

Aside from my discussion on News & Guts, I also made a music video. Most people aren’t as interested in my music stuff, but I like to do it because it’s just about making something pleasant. There’s nothing in my videos about politics; there’s no profanity or airing of dirty laundry. It’s mostly just pretty stuff. I enjoy the emotional release of making music and the creative process. I would just as soon make recordings without any photos in them, but people like to look at stuff when they watch a video. I don’t necessarily want them looking at me, though. I’m kind of camera shy. I did “meet” another guitar guy last week. I really enjoy his playing, but he’s more interested in acapella harmonies. Unfortunately, I like his playing better than his singing.

Tomorrow, we’re going to pack up the car and head off on vacation. Hopefully, neither of us will get sick as we get a glimpse of life outside of Germany for the first time since February. Well… Bill did go to the USA in March. But other than that, we’ve been stuck in Deutschland. Not that it’s a bad place to be stuck, mind you. I’m just ready to see the Alps and eat some really good food.

I guess I’ll bring my guitar with me, too, so I can practice… I don’t think I want to take a whole ten days off. I’ll bring along my laptop, so I can write and upload new pictures. My desktop has been giving me issues this week. My keyboard and mouse randomly disconnect at the same time and I have to shut off the computer and reboot. And sometimes even that doesn’t fix the problem. This computer isn’t even two years old yet, so I’m not sure what’s up with the bluetooth. It’s an irritating problem, but since we’re going on vacation, I can forget about it for awhile.

I did mean to write yesterday. I stared at the empty WordPress template for hours. I kept looking at the “Add Title” prompt in the title space. Nothing came to mind, other than wanting to rant about something that I can’t rant about publicly, at least for the time being. So I took the day off and reposted a book review– a good review on an important topic. I think people really should think more about whether or not every ugly incident needs to be recorded and made viral.

For instance, a couple of days ago, I ran across a video on YouTube involving a kid– maybe ten or eleven years old– in the back seat of his mother’s car having an extremely epic temper tantrum. He was not wearing a seatbelt and was screaming and grabbing at his mother as she tried to drive. Someone was filming this for posterity. I saw it on at least three channels, although people had turned off the comments.

I shared the video with friends. Maybe I shouldn’t have, under the circumstances. More than one of them wondered why the kid was being filmed. I wondered why Mom hadn’t pulled over until the tantrum ended. What destination was so important that she needed to keep driving while her out of control son was flailing around, kicking, screaming, and being demonic in the back seat?

To my friend who was opposed to the filming, I remarked that nowadays, everyone has a phone, and people feel compelled to film every little thing. Watching that video is a good reminder that not everything needs to put out there for posterity. I don’t know who the boy is or how old the video is, but it was just a few bad minutes of his life. Makes me glad there were no cellphones when I was his age.

Well… that does it for today. I’m going to go do some reading, practice guitar, walk Arran, and do my much dreaded Thursday chore of vacuuming. Cheerio. And for those who want to see the video I did yesterday, here it is…

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poor judgment, social media

We shouldn’t “love to hate” people…

At the risk of sounding like I’m telling people what to do, I feel compelled to write a post about a news story I was alerted to last night. Amber Lynn Gilles of San Diego recently decided to visit a Starbucks. She was not wearing a face mask, even though the masks were required.

San Diego County issued a notice as of May 1, requiring residents to wear face coverings in most public settings, including when visiting a store or getting food at a restaurant. The rule does offer exemptions for those with a health condition that prevents them from wearing a mask. Gilles implied that she is medically exempt from wearing a mask, but she didn’t explain why. Perhaps she doesn’t actually have a medical condition preventing her from wearing a mask. Or maybe she simply feels it’s no one else’s business.

In any case, Lenin Gutierrez, the barista who tried to serve Ms. Gilles, asked her if she had a mask. Gilles said she didn’t. So Lenin said he couldn’t serve her.

Gilles’ response was to flip off Lenin, “curse up a storm”, take Lenin’s picture, threaten to report him to corporate, and complain about him on Facebook. This was her now deleted post:

“Meet lenen from Starbucks who refused to serve me cause I’m not wearing a mask. Next time I will wait for cops and bring a medical exemption.”

To be sure, this was not Amber Lynn’s finest day. I don’t condone her behavior at all. She sounds very much like an asshole. Other people thought so too, and her post quickly backfired. She got all kinds of hate, and yes, lots of people calling her a “Karen”, which if you know this blog, you know I don’t like. But what was most troubling to me was that Gilles got death threats. It struck me as completely hypocritical and ridiculous, especially since the face masks are supposed to help preserve life.

As I have read on Facebook post after Facebook post for the past few weeks, wearing a mask is the “kind” and “considerate” thing to do. If you wear one, you are showing regard for other people and their health. Well… if that’s how people really feel– that all people’s lives are important, and we should be doing our best to preserve them and show our regard for others– why would we cheer about Amber Lynn Gilles getting death threats?

Gilles doesn’t sound like a very pleasant person. She wrote on Facebook that “Masks are stupid and so are the people wearing them.” According to the Washington Post article I linked, Gilles has also expressed her contempt for masks in prior posts and suggests that people who wear them are “not thinking clearly”. The 35 year old mother of three has also been described as an “anti-vaxxer”. She was quoted as saying, “It starts with coffee but it ends with digital certificates and forced vaccinations.”

Mmm’kay then… it sounds to me like Gilles is very frightened about something. Perhaps that is what led to her outburst. Maybe she’s feeling “caution fatigued“, as I know I am these days. I know I’ve been feeling anxious and depressed and, at times, angry about what’s happened this year. I feel kind of robbed, even though I probably don’t have the right to feel that way. I am admittedly a very privileged person who enjoys the good fortune of being able to stay home and avoid these kinds of altercations. However, I still feel angry and depressed, whether or not people think I have that right. It is what it is.

Coronavirus is scary, and many people are fearful of what is going to happen in the immediate future. A lot of times, fear is expressed as anger. Anger makes people feel powerful and strong. Fear makes them feel weak and powerless. I’ve seen this reaction in dogs many times… wonderful, sweet, loving pets reduced to snarling and lashing out with their teeth because they’re scared and feel the need to defend themselves. I don’t think humans are necessarily that different. I’ll bet Amber isn’t always profane and hostile. Most people aren’t.

I don’t know what led Amber Lynn Gilles to this point in her life. I’d like to think, though, that she’s not a totally terrible person. This incident amounts to just a few minutes of her life. In my experience, most people are not completely horrible, nor are they completely wonderful. Most people have good days and bad days. I would not want to see a person’s life ruined over a few bad moments caught on video or social media. I would not want Amber Lynn Gilles to kill herself or be murdered over something like this. I think people who send death threats should be prosecuted.

Someone on the Washington Post wrote this comment, with which I completely agreed:

Yeah… it’s hypocritical to condemn someone for recklessly avoiding wearing a mask when your response is wishing for them to die.

I suspect that the people who are reacting in this way, whether they’re refusing to wear a mask or being hateful to people who refuse to wear masks, are doing so because they’re scared and feel like they’ve lost control. They feel good “going off” on someone, not realizing that reacting to other human beings with hatred is no better than the initial bad behavior that prompted the hateful response. Lest anyone call me a hypocrite, I’ll even admit that I should try harder not to be mean spirited, too. Sometimes I vent with anger, although I mostly try to keep it somewhat private. Especially now. I try to do better, although it’s a daily struggle.

The good news is that Lenin Gutierrez is now being rewarded for the few minutes of meanness Amber Lynn Gilles sent his way. Matt Cowan, who doesn’t know him or Amber Lynn Gilles, decided to set up a GoFundMe account for him, inviting people to give him tips. At this writing, his tip fund is over $58,000, and Gutierrez, who sounds like a genuinely good person, says he’s going to use the money to teach dance to children.

I have often stated that I think good things can come out of almost any situation. As unpleasant as Amber Lynn Gilles’ behavior was, if you think about it, it may ultimately change many lives. If Gutierrez makes good on his plans to teach dance, he will no doubt do a lot of good for a lot of young people who could use some good in their lives. If Amber Lynn hadn’t been so hostile and insulting to Lenin Gutierrez, he might just keep on being a barista, serving the people Gilles calls “sheep”. But now he’s being singled out as a mensch, getting handsomely rewarded for doing his job and being cool. So, if anything, that was something good that came out of Amber Lynn Gilles’ outburst. Maybe Lenin Gutierrez will have the chance to fulfill a dream that will bear wonderful fruit for other people.

There are people I strongly dislike, and I am sure quite a few people strongly dislike me, too. But almost everyone I’ve encountered has had a positive aspect to them. Even Bill’s ex wife, who is someone I admittedly despise, has done me a solid. If she hadn’t been such a terrible wife to Bill and divorced him, I might still be single, and he might still be in a less ideal marriage. So, I am grateful to her for that… and I’m sure if I thought about it, I might even think of other reasons to be grateful to her.

I strongly dislike our former landlady for being immature, disrespectful, and trying to rip us off. But I am grateful that I got to live in a nice community in a beautiful area for a few years. I have good memories of our time there, even if the way we’ve parted hasn’t been good. But even leaving that situation on bad terms has a positive side, since I am also learning from that experience. That will only make me wiser, which is a good thing.

I don’t blame Amber Lynn Gilles for not liking the mask. I don’t like it, either, and I’m not convinced that it helps that much. I think that most of us will eventually be exposed to the virus, whether or not we wear masks. And some of us have already been exposed and aren’t even aware of it. I understand why so many people are angry. People are pent up, frustrated, worried, stressed out, angry, and sad. We should try to work together, but a lot of people feel like rebelling in a crisis– like the scared dog, they lash out. Some of them lash out inappropriately, like Amber Lynn Gilles, and that creates a domino effect of hatred… like the people who wish she was dead. I’m sure Amber’s children wouldn’t want their mother to die for want of a face mask and a cup of coffee. That’s preposterous.

It doesn’t help any matter when we don’t have empathy. Expressing hatred, and wishing for death on people we don’t even know, is not empathetic or civilized. It’s the wrong course of action, and ultimately will lead to our downfall. So no, I don’t wish death on Amber Lynn Gilles or her ilk. I wish her peace, which I hope will help her react with more kindness and understanding the next time she encounters someone simply trying to do their job.

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